Houston teen struggling to recover from gay-bashing

Posted on 25 Oct 2009 at 6:17pm
By Tammye Nash | Senior Editor nash@dallasvoice.com

Jayron, LaKenya Martin say they are thankful for LGBT community’s support, disappointed in response from Cy-Fair school officials


REMEMBERING STEVEN, JASON, JAYRON | About 100 people gathered at the Crossroads at Throckmorton Street on Sunday, Nov. 22, to hold a candlelight vigil for teen victims of recent hate crimes. Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado was stabbed, beheaded, dismembered and set on fire earlier this month in Puerto Rico. Jason Mattison was raped and stabbed to death in Baltimore, and Jayron Martin was beaten with a pipe in Houston. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

HOUSTON — It’s been two weeks since openly gay 16-year-old Jayron Martin was chased down and attacked by a group of classmates who intended to "beat the gay out" of him. But he still suffers from extreme headaches and nightmares. And he still doesn’t want to leave his house.

"It’s overwhelming," his mother, LaKenya Martin, said in an exclusive interview with Dallas Voice this week. "He’s not sleeping. He’s having nightmares and headaches. He’s afraid to leave the house, but he has to go out to go to counseling and the doctor. We both love church, and having to miss that is a real hassle. Jayron is afraid to go back to school."

She also noted that the boys who attacked her son all live in the neighborhood, which makes it even scarier.

"I am a disabled parent. With everything that’s going on, safety is our main concern. We all live in the same vicinity, and that is a problem. We’re going to have to relocate, move somewhere Jayron can feel safe [and where] Jayron can get his schooling."

Jayron agreed. "I don’t want to be at home, but I don’t want to be away from the people I know, the people who love me and will take care of me. I know I can’t go back to school, because they are waiting on me, still wanting to fight me."

"They," Jayron said, are a group of eight boys who stood around, hurling anti-gay insults as a ninth boy beat Jayron with his fists and with a metal pipe, leaving him with a concussion and numerous cuts and bruises on his arms and hands.

Jayron said he had told two assistant principals and his bus driver that the boys were planning to attack him after school. But none of the adults did anything to prevent it. If not for a neighbor who used a shotgun to scare away the assailants, Jayron said, he probably would have been much more severely injured, or even killed.

Jayron said when he first found out that he had been targeted by his classmates, he told the principal, who told him to write out a statement and take it to the office. He said he did that during his fourth period class on Nov. 12 and took it to the office before lunch.

But no one ever called him — or any of the potential assailants — to the office to talk about the situation.

At lunch that day, Jayron said, a girl he knows came to the table where he sat to warn him again. "She told me, ‘Chris and them are gonna fight you because you’re gay.’ I asked when, and she told me after school," he said.

So he found an assistant principal and told him, and then he told a second assistant principal. And still, "Nobody called us down to the office. Three periods went by and nobody did anthing," he said.

After school Jayron got on the bus, the same bus that the boys planning to attack him rode. He said he told the bus driver then that he was in danger from his classmates. But the driver just told him to sit close behind him.

"Then we got to my bus stop, and as soon as he opened that bus door, I got off and started running, running, running. I looked back, and I saw all these dudes running after me," Jayron recalled.

He ran across the street and behind a nearby house, hiding behind an air conditioning unit until the gang passed by. Then he tried to get into a neighbor’s backyard to find help, but the boys returned and began throwing things at him.

"I was screaming for help, beating on the neighbor’s door. I was trying to get away, but one of them, Chris, started hitting me. He picked up a pipe and hit me with it, and the others were standing around yelling slurs at me," Jayron said.

"I got away and ran across the street again. A neighbor’s garage door was open, and I ran through the garage and into the kitchen. I was running, running, running. But they were still chasing me. They chased me through the dining room and into the foyer, and I fell on the floor, and Chris kept hitting me and kicking me."

It was then that the man who lived in the house came down the stairs and into the foyer carrying a shotgun. He brandished the gun and yelled at the boys to leave, but they ignored him. It wasn’t until the man cocked the shotgun, Jayron said, that the teens stopped the attack and ran away.

The boy Jayron identified only as Chris has been arrested in connection with the attack. He is 16 and a juvenile, so police are not releasing his name.

None of the others has been arrested yet,

LaKenya Martin said, and that’s one reason why she and Jayron are still so afraid.

"If we were just dealing with one family calling here and coming by and trying to get us [drop the charges] it would be one thing. But it’s nine families, and other people, too," LaKenya Martin said.

Alexis Parker, who said she is LaKenya Martin’s best friend, said many of those who have called and sent e-mails are trying to blame Jayron for the attack.

"The first e-mail we got was from somebody who said her name was Dee," Parker said. "She was saying it happened because Jayron is just ‘too out there.’"

That e-mail echoed comments, posted on a story about Jayron on Dallas Voice’s Instant Tea blog, from people claiming to be classmates of Jayron and his attackers. The commenters, using what appeared to be a fake IP address, claimed Jayron had provoked the assault by constantly making passes at the boys, by sending texts pretending to be one boy’s girlfriend and asking the boy to text back photos of his penis.

Jayron, his mother and Parker all adamantly deny those claims.

"Jayron is not ashamed of who is he. Most of his friends are girls, and he may tell one of them he thinks some boy is cute or whatever. But he wouldn’t try to have some kind of physical contact with any of them. That’s just not in his character," Parker said.

Jayron added, "I don’t even like guys like that! They are not my type at all, none of them are. I like someone who’s real professional and neat. Those guys are thuggies!"

And even though both Jayron and his mother had been active in their church, the church has not proven to be a source of help or comfort to them.

"The church doesn’t condone it," LaKenya Martin said of her son’s sexual orientation.

But Parker, who said she doesn’t attend that same church, went further.

"Jayron loves his church, Higher Dimension Church. He’s in the choir. He does plays in the church. He and his mom have been very active in the church," Parker said. "But the church hasn’t been as supportive as we would like.

"There are some people in the church who have called and are concerned for him," she continued. "But there are other churches who have done more. They have contacted Jayron and his mother, telling them, ‘Our doors are always open to you. We will welcome you and we will embrace you as a child of God.’"

LaKenya Martin said she and Jayron have also been comforted and encouraged by the outpouring of support they have gotten from Houston’s LGBT community.

"The community has stepped up and done so much," LaKenya Martin said. "We’re just overwhelmed by the support we’re getting from them."

She said that although she is no longer "in the life," she lived as a lesbian for about 16 years. "As of last Easter, I stopped involving myself in situations," LaKenya Martin said. "But that doesn’t mean I don’t support my son. I’m not knocking anyone. It’s my personal preference to make that decision, and I won’t inflict that on my son. It’s just that things happen that might not change your heart, but it does change your perspective."

LaKenya Martin said that she came out as an adult when she was past the age that she felt she had to have the approval of her peers. But her son is still young, and it is important for him to have peers he can relate to, and adults he can look up to.

Since he was attacked, she said, he is finding those things in the LGBT community.

"He goes to HATCH [an LGBT youth group] meetings at the Montrose Counseling Center, and he’s learning so much, just about the dynamics of dating and even how to break up with someone," LaKenya Martin said of her son. "He’s got allies in the community. We’re going to conferences and meetings where he can meet people who tell him, ‘Be proud of who you are.’ He gets to see a positive lifestyle and meet people who care and who are helping educate others.

"We live in Cy-Fair [near Katy], and Montrose is a great distance to travel. But he needs this. It helps him own up to who he is and be proud of himself, and I am glad that he’s part of something that is positive and informative," she added.

But still, Jayron has a long way to go to recover — mentally and emotionally, as well as physically. His mother said she believes that getting justice for the attack is necessary for his recovery, and she is determined that his attackers, and the adults who ignored Jayron’s pleas for help, will face that justice.

"It’s not that I’m angry. We’re not seeking revenge," LaKenya Martin said. "We just want justice. We just want to get back to some kind of normalcy.

"My son did what he was taught to do. He went to someone and told them what was happening. He asked for help, and they didn’t help him," she said. "You tell your kids not to fight back, but to go to an adult for help. But what happens when they do that and those adults fail them. How do I get him to trust adults again? You can’t just give him back that safety and security he had."

That failure on the part of school authorities adds to the physical injuries Jayron suffered. Pile on the insults from those who blame Jayron for being gay and his mother for standing by him in spite of that, and the load can be almost unbearable.

"We’re having to deal with his peers. We’re having to deal with irresponsible adults. We’re having to deal with the insults," LaKenya Martin said. "As a mother, that hurts. It really hurts. I am not angry; I am let down."

But while they may be let down, LaKenya Martin said, she and Jayron are not down and out. They are fighting back, for themselves and others like them.

"I’ve heard that in 90 percent of the hate crimes against gay people, they are injured to within an inch of their life, if they aren’t killed outright. That could have happened to my son," LaKenya Martin said. "Will it take a death before these people change the way they do things?

"I know there’s a lot of hate in this world. But that won’t stop us. I am standing by my son, no matter what. They picked the wrong one to hurt. And I know I’m speaking out not just for my son, but for a lot of people in the same situation," she said. "If I just sit back and keep my mouth shut about this, how long will it take before things change?" LaKenya Martin continued. "The principles I stand on are the ones I have taught my son: Right is right, and wrong is wrong. I taught him that his voice is more powerful than his fist. And I appreciate the opportunity we have to have a voice, and I know it takes time to make change. But we are going to speak out, and three or four years out, how many lives will be saved just by education, just by people knowing what has happened?

"That’s why we are going to keep talking."

PROTEST PLANNED AT LANGHAM CREEK H.S.

Supporters of Jayron Martin will hold a protest outside his high school, Langham Creek High School in Houston’s Cy-Fair school district near Katy, from 6:45 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 30.

Alexis Parker, a close friend of Jayron and his mother, LaKenya Martin, said the protest is planned to bring attention to the fact that although Jayron told several school officials that a gang of boys had plans to attack him after school, school officials did nothing to prevent the attack.

Jayron also told his bus driver, and the driver has been suspended for not preventing the attack. So far, though, no action has been taken against the principal and two assistant principals Jayron talked to. Parker said the point of the protest was to get the school district to take action against the three administrators.

One 16-year-old boy has been charged in the attack on Jayron, and Parker said when that case goes to trial, Jayron’s supporters will hold a protest outside the court. Eight other teenagers were involved in the attack, but none have been charged.

—Tammye Nash


This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 27, 2009.

Comments

comments

Powered by Facebook Comments